Second-half rally propels Hawkeye women past Gophers

No. 22 Iowa stayed collected after a rough first half to overcome No. 23 Minnesota on the road.


Lily Smith

Iowa’s Tania Davis guards the ball during the Iowa/Florida State Big Ten/ACC Challenge basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

Iowa women’s basketball entered its game against Minnesota with a No. 22 ranking, but only a .500 mark in conference play after falling in two road games.

The No. 22 Hawkeyes (12-4, 3-2 Big Ten) refused to add to add to the loss column, coming back from an 8-point halftime deficit and riding a hot second half to score an 81-63 road victory over No. 23 Minnesota (12-4, 1-4 Big Ten).

“Big Ten road wins are special and this one means a lot to our players, so we’re glad to get that road win and kind of get that monkey off of our back of having two Big Ten road losses,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said in a release.

Back-to-back road losses seemed probable after a dismal second quarter on the offensive end in which Iowa shot just 4-of-12 (33 percent) from the floor and, getting outscored 21-9.

The rough showing put Iowa down 40-32 at the half and in need of some answers on offense. The Hawkeyes found their solution in Megan Gustafson and Tania Davis.

Davis had one of her best games of the season, tallying 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while also dishing out 7 assists.

Meanwhile, Gustafson did what she always does. The Port Wing, Wisconsin, native led the way for the Hawkeyes in rebounding and scoring with 34 points and 10 boards in addition to dishing out 4 assists.

The performance marked her 15th double-double of the season and the 70th of her career, making her just the second athlete in Big Ten women’s basketball history to reach 70.

Gustafson, who was named to the Big Ten Player of the Week Honor Roll before she took on the Gophers, leads the country in double-doubles.

Iowa also received significant contributions from Kathleen Doyle and Hannah Stewart.

Doyle racked up 11 points with 7 assists, making it seven straight game she has had at least 5 dimes. Stewart, on the other hand, put up 10 points with 7 rebounds and 2 assists, as both players combined for 7 steals.

“We talked about getting our composure [at halftime],” Bluder said in a release. “Our players did that and did a great job of having composure and staying laser-focused all through this game.”

The biggest difference in the game was Iowa’s ability to defend the paint – Gustafson and Stewart swatted away 3 shots each.

The Hawkeyes totaled 7 rejections as a team and outscored Minnesota in the paint, 52-34, while holding the Gophers to just to a 36.9 percent shooting.

Iowa also defended the perimeter well, holding Minnesota to just a 5-of-24 mark on the night, including 1-of-12 in the second half.

One huge takeaway for Iowa was its impressive field goal percentage. The Hawkeyes shot 63 percent, which is their best since Dec. 2 against Robert Morris.

It was also encouraging for Iowa to see how well the players surrounding Gustafson shot the ball.

Before Monday, Gustafson’s teammates were shooting 39.3 percent from the floor in Big Ten play. On Monday, they shot 56.2 percent.

If players like Davis and Doyle can continue to put up strong numbers, the Hawkeyes have a solid opportunity to put together a big run in the next two months.

Next, Iowa will look to put together a winning streak as it gets set to take on Michigan Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye.